Islamic State


Tribal Disputes Flare in over Water Scarcity

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Tribal disputes flare in southern Iraq over water scarcity

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave instructions on Feb. 11 to stop the encroachment upon water quotas and increase the water share to Al-Mejar district in Maysan province in southern Iraq.

Abadi’s instructions came days after tribal conflicts in Iraq’s southern provinces broke out over agricultural land water quotas, prompting activists in the province to launch a campaign titled Save the Tigris in a bid to end the water crisis. There are already conflicts plaguing those provinces — especially Basra, where water issues between the southern tribes have already escalated into armed conflicts.

Hassanein al-Munshid, a civil activist in a local campaign in Maysan province working to end the water crisis, told Al-Monitor, “Tribal conflicts are intensifying in the province because of the water crisis, which might lead to additional fighting.”

He added, “There is a tribal sheikh in the northern areas of Maysan province controlling the water flow of the Tigris River to irrigate his farms. There are top officials who are aware of his acts of encroachment, but the government cannot do anything about it.”

For security reasons, Munshid did not name the sheikh.

The Iraqi government is doing its best to face the drought that hit the southern provinces due to the lack of water flowing from Turkey, which is the source of the Euphrates River. Most areas of the south and the middle Euphrates depend on the water flowing from the Euphrates.

Majid al-Gharabi, a sheikh in Diwani province, told Al-Monitor, “The reason behind the tribal differences over water is that some clans are diverting the flow of water to prevent it from reaching the farms of other tribes.”

On Jan. 21, Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Hasan al-Janabi wrote on his Facebook page that “Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in front of Abadi that Turkey is committed to postponing the filling of the Ilisu Dam and that the Turkish president is committed [to not harming] Iraq. We definitely have specific demands we seek to achieve peacefully and diplomatically in this regard.”

In an interview published by Foreign Policy Concepts on Jan. 7, the Iraqi minister said the country’s water scarcity is intensified by excessive control measures in the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Of note, 70% of the water that flows into Iraq comes from outside of Iraq’s borders, and this issue — just like any other — affects and is affected by politics, so Turkey’s construction of the Ilisu Dam faced strong Iraqi objections given the risks of drought it entails for Mesopotamia.

In the province of Dhi Qar alone, 20 clan clashes erupted recently due to water scarcity, according to Mayor Hussein Ali Raddad of the Islah district, who also confirmed that the local government in the province failed to reach any solutions regarding the issue.

Ali Raddad told Al-Monitor, “The crisis we are facing now lies in the tribal conflicts that sometimes escalate into violence.”

Iraqi officials say the reason behind the water crisis in the country is that not enough water is flowing into Iraq from Turkey, warning of a looming “disaster” in the coming months.

Meanwhile, a number of citizens blame the Iraqi government for the tribal conflicts erupting in the country, saying the government is incapable of monitoring the distribution of water quotas to farmers. Some tribes are not getting their share of the water while others are getting more than their specified quota, citizens told Radio Nawa.

Water is not sufficiently flowing into farms from the main sources in their provinces, worsening the issues between tribes.

The water crisis may serve as the impetus for new demonstrations in Iraq, specifically in the southern regions where some tribes warned the Iraqi government of a “war” that may erupt in the absence of appropriate measures to resolve the water crisis.

In Maysan province, water shortages are no less serious than those in Dhi Qar, Samawah and Wasit. The capital city of Maysan, Amarah, may suffer a major disaster as a result of drought, as waves of displacement will ensue, the marshes will dry out, the livestock will die and the agriculture industry will be doomed, officials say.

This is not the first time that armed conflicts have erupted between the tribes of southern Iraq over water. Three years ago, the dispute escalated between the tribes of the provinces of Muthanna and Diwaniyah for the same reason.

Parts of southern Iraq are going through a phase no less serious than the situation in the Sunni areas of Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah. Water is the dwindling lifeblood that could lead to long-term tribal fighting in those areas.

Despite its attempts, the Iraqi government is seemingly unable to control the tribal differences over water in the areas of southern Iraq, especially considering that there are tribes and families controlling the water flow and preventing it from reaching other farms and areas.

The Iraqi government may have to resort to a military option to end inter-clan disputes over water and force tribes to divide water quotas. Otherwise, some farms will be deprived of their quotas.

Details of Defeat-ISIS Strikes in Syria, Iraq

Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and its partners continued to strike Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets in designated parts of Syria and Iraq between Feb. 9-15, conducting 43 strikes consisting of 63 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Strikes in Syria

Yesterday in Syria, coalition military forces conducted four strikes consisting of five engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Abu Kamal, three strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS supply route, a staging area and a weapons cache.

— Near Shadaddi, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS headquarters.

On Feb. 14, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Abu Kamal, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit.

— Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS outpost.

On Feb. 13, coalition military forces conducted four strikes consisting of six engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes suppressed two ISIS maneuver elements and destroyed a fighting position, a heavy machine gun and an artillery system.

On Feb. 12, coalition military forces conducted 10 strikes consisting of 13 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Abu Kamal, nine strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit; suppressed an ISIS maneuver element; and destroyed two artillery systems, a tactical vehicle, a heavy machine gun, two ISIS supply routes, a fighting position and a command-and-control center.

— Near Shadaddi, a strike destroyed two ISIS fighting positions.

On Feb. 11, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes consisting of 11 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions, an ISIS-held building, a command-and-control center, three tactical vehicles and two ISIS-supply routes.

On Feb. 10, coalition military forces conducted nine strikes consisting of 11 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Abu Kamal, eight strikes engaged six ISIS tactical units and destroyed two command and control centers, a fighting position, an ISIS-held building, a weapons cache, an ISIS motorcycle and a mortar tube.

— Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike engaged two tactical units of hostile forces and destroyed a tank.

On Feb. 9, coalition military forces conducted three strikes consisting of seven engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units and damaged an ISIS-held building.

Additional Strikes in Syria

On Feb. 8, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement near Raqqa, engaging an ISIS tactical unit.

On Jan. 31, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement near Shadaddi, destroying an ISIS rocket fighting position.

Strikes in Iraq

On Feb. 15, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets near Rutbah. The strike destroyed an ISIS weapons cache.

On Feb. 14, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of three engagements against ISIS targets near Beiji. The strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS facility.

There were no reported strikes in Iraq on Feb. 12-13.

On Feb. 11, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Tal Afar. The strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS tunnel.

There were no reported strikes in Iraq on Feb. 9-10.

Additional Strikes in Iraq

On Jan. 27, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement in support of an Iraqi raid on a high-value ISIS leader.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and ground-based tactical artillery, officials noted.

A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

Progress To Defeat ISIS Continues

Significant progress in the fight to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has resulted in a shift in focus to sustaining military gains in Iraq to ensure a lasting defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists, The commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command told Pentagon reporters today.

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport jet assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron sits on the ramp at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 24, 2018. The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to bases throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt Gregory Brook

Speaking via teleconference from the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian said the Feb. 1 standup of a coalition aviation advisory and training team is an example of the transition.

The coalition team of airmen will help the Iraqis build a capable, affordable, professional and sustainable aviation enterprise, he explained. And while the standup of the team does not signal an increase in the U.S.-led coalition’s presence in Iraq, the CAAT will bridge the work toward standing up an air expeditionary wing that will take over that mission, he said.

Preventing ISIS Resurgence

The coalition’s train, advise and assist efforts to build a lasting Iraqi aviation enterprise will not be tied to a timeline, but instead will be conditions-based, proportional to the needs, and in coordination with partners in the Iraq government, Harrigian said.

“As we transition our focus in [Operation Inherent Resolve] to sustain our military gains, let me be clear that we will retain the necessary amount of air power to prevent a resurgence of ISIS,” he emphasized.

Harrigian said the progress to defeat ISIS has allowed the United States to realign some of its deployed combat air power and personnel to Afghanistan, including A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters.

“These aircraft will provide increased air support to the South Asia strategy, as well as ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Afghan-led operations,” the commander said. “This plus-up in air power is also producing tangible results as part of a deliberate air campaign that we kicked off in late November to decimate the Taliban’s primary revenue source — narcotics production.”

Goal: Choke Off Taliban

The goal is to choke off the Taliban’s ability to pay for its deadly attacks, such as those in Kabul recently, he noted.

Harrigian said the campaign to stop the Taliban’s resource flow will take time and that it will not align with the traditional fighting season in Afghanistan.

“Instead, [the campaign] will be relentless and persistent, as demonstrated by the 321 precision munitions we released this January against Taliban targets in the dead of winter, a time they typically rest and recuperate,” he said.

Such pressure will persist until the Taliban reconcile or die, Harrigian said. “We are already seeing positive reflections from our intelligence that the Taliban are not enjoying their typical winter break.”

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

Video: Book Culture Returns to Mosul

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Literary cafes, poetry readings and pavement bookstalls — Mosul’s cultural scene is back in business, months after Iraqi forces ousted the Islamic State group from the city following three years of jihadist rule.

View on YouTube

Coalition Aviation Advisory and Training Team established in Iraq

U.S. Air Forces Central Command, in coordination with Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, stood up a Coalition Aviation Advisory and Training Team in Iraq Feb. 1.

This standup will help to develop an Iraqi aviation enterprise capable of safeguarding the country from ISIS and its affiliates.

The CAATT, in partnership with the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, will enhance the aviation capabilities of the ISF and train, advise and assist the Iraqi Army Aviation Command, Iraqi Air Defense Command and the Iraqi Air Force.

“This Coalition team of airmen will build upon our Iraqi partner’s combat-proven capabilities to ensure a capable, affordable, professional, and sustainable Iraqi Aviation Enterprise,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. “Together with our Iraqi Security Forces partners, we will ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq.”

The standup of this unit does not indicate an increase in the overall number of troops deployed to Iraq. The CAATT is comprised of U.S. and Coalition airmen from multiple specialties and is specifically designed to leverage existing resources and Coalition partner capabilities.

Following the country’s liberation from ISIS’ physical presence, the Coalition is transitioning to a more training-focused and building-partner-capacity role – decreasing overall Coalition air support as the Iraqi Air Force assumes air missions, duties and responsibilities necessary to ensure a lasting defeat of ISIS.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

Coalition Announces Shift in Focus as Iraq Campaign Progresses

Enabled by accelerated successes following the liberation of Mosul, the coalition will shift its focus in Iraq from enabling combat operations to sustaining military gains against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials announced today.

“The coalition will tailor our forces in consultation with our Iraqi partners in order to ensure the lasting defeat of [ISIS],” said CJTF-OIR director of operations, Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga.

As a result of the successful operations by the coalition and its partners, ISIS has lost about 98 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria. However, coalition commanders have noted ISIS is likely to transition back into an insurgency. ISIS still retains the ability to carry out lethal attacks and poses a potent threat to civilians and to the stability of the region.

“We’re clear the enemy is still capable of offensive action and retains the ability to plan and inspire attacks worldwide,” Braga said. “Although OIR’s force composition may change over time to ensure we have the best forces on hand for the task, we will retain an appropriate amount of capabilities as well as an advisory presence to continue training, advising and equipping our partners in the continued fight against [ISIS], all with the approval of the government of Iraq.

“Our enduring presence as invited guests in Iraq will shift to focus more on policing, border control and military capacity building. We will sustain the successful momentum and enhance the capacities of the Iraqi security forces in pursuing [ISIS], now and in the future,” Braga said.

Preventing ISIS’ Return

To prevent the conditions under which ISIS can re-emerge, coalition-partnered military operations will enable diplomatic and economic efforts by the international community that will capitalize on the military gains of the past year. “Military success has bought time, space and security for non-military stabilization efforts to help the people of Iraq, and we look to facilitate the return of normalcy for Iraqis,” Braga said.

Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq.

“We will redouble our efforts to develop the Iraqi security forces, ensuring they have the necessary capability and expertise to meet current and future security threats,” said British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, OIR’s deputy commander for strategy and support. “We remain committed to working with our Iraqi partners.”

Although the coalition will not provide specifics on individual nations’ plans and contributions, it asserts 2018 will be a critical year in adjusting coalition forces as it consolidates gains against [ISIS] and brings hope for a better future to the Iraqi people.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

115 Iraqi Civilians Killed in January

A total of 115 Iraqi civilians (not including police) were killed and another 250 injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in January 2018*, according to casualty figures recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate, with 323 civilian casualties (90 killed, 233 injured). Diyala followed, with 8 killed and 15 injured; and Ninewa, with 13 killed and 7 injured. UNAMI has not been able to obtain the civilian casualty figures from the Anbar Health Department for the month of January.

“Terrorists continue to target civilians in irregular strikes, even though their capabilities have been largely destroyed. The twin suicide bombings on 15 January at Baghdad’s Tayran Square, which left numerous casualties among innocent workers and passersby, are proof of their indiscriminate disregard for human life,” said the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Ján Kubiš. “We must all continue to be vigilant in opposing this destructive violence”.

*CAVEATS: UNAMI has been limited in effectively verifying casualties in certain areas; in some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

(Source: United Nations News Centre)

Latest Strikes Against ISIS in Syria, Iraq

U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria between Jan. 19-25, conducting 60 strikes consisting of 93 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

CJTF-OIR officials reported that a significant precision strike involving exhaustive intelligence and observation to confirm ISIS concentrations and ensure no civilian casualties killed 145-150 ISIS terrorists in Iraq’s Middle Euphrates Valley Jan. 20.

In addition, officials reported details of the most recent strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

Yesterday in Syria, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of 12 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units and destroyed two ISIS supply routes, four fighting positions, a front-end loader, a road grader and an ISIS line of communication.

On Jan. 24, coalition military forces conducted 11 strikes consisting of 15 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged six ISIS tactical units and destroyed a front-end loader, two ISIS supply routes, four fighting positions and an ISIS line of communication.

On Jan. 23, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of 10 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed three pieces of ISIS construction equipment, three fighting positions and two ISIS supply routes.

On Jan. 22, coalition military forces conducted four strikes consisting of seven engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units and destroyed two ISIS supply routes, a command-and-control center and an ISIS-held building.

On Jan. 21, coalition military forces conducted 10 strikes consisting of 13 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged eight ISIS tactical units and destroyed a staging facility, two ISIS supply routes, a munitions storage site, an ISIS-held building, an ammunition truck and a fighting position.

On Jan. 20, coalition military forces conducted 12 strikes consisting of 19 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes engaged 12 ISIS tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions, a staging facility, a vehicle-borne bomb, three weapons caches, two ISIS headquarters, an ISIS motorcycle, an ISIS construction vehicle and an ISIS-held building.

On Jan. 19, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes consisting of 13 engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes destroyed two ISIS supply routes, three ISIS equipment vehicles, six fighting positions, two ISIS vehicles and a command-and-control center.

Strikes in Iraq

There were no reported strikes in Iraq Jan. 23-25.

On Jan. 22, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Qara Tapa. The strike destroyed an ISIS weapons cache.

On Jan. 21, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of three engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Hawija, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed a fighting position and an ISIS command-and-control center.

— Near Rutbah, a strike destroyed two ISIS tactical vehicles.

On Jan. 20, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Qayyarah. The strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit.

There were no reported strikes in Iraq on Jan. 19.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

Anbar eyes Political Battle as Displaced Return

By Shelly Kittleson for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Two months after government forces retook Iraq’s last major city from the Islamic State (IS), the country is preparing for parliamentary elections slated for May.

Anbar, its largest and westernmost region, is where IS took control of its first Iraqi city in January 2014. Fighters from the international terrorist group are reportedly still hiding in parts of its vast desert.

How the shift from fighting a terrorist group with roots in the area to competition at the political level plays out will affect the years to come.

Provincial Gov. Mohamed al-Halbusi, who took office in the fall, told Al-Monitor that voter turnout had been very low in the province for many years due to the fear of insurgents but that he expected this to change in the upcoming elections.

Local officials, security forces and a tribal leader echoed that sentiment to Al-Monitor over a number of days in the province in early January. “About 85%” of the province’s inhabitants are home, Halbusi said, and “I think about 60% of them will vote.”

However, with many of the displaced still not back in their homes, some have called for the elections to be postponed.

Recent reports of forced returns from internally displaced person (IDP) camps scattered around the Sunni-dominant Anbar region and elsewhere in the country have also raised concern.

In an interview in Ramadi, provincial police chief Gen. Hadi Rizej Kessar told Al-Monitor, “We decided to close all IDP camps and send families back to their homes because the security is now good. But if we have some families that remain in the camps, we can arrange for them to vote inside the camps.”

Coalition Aims to Defeat ISIS’ Brand

The physical caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is in pieces and operations against ISIS [Islamic State group, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh] continue in the Euphrates River valley, but the ISIS “brand” remains to be defeated, Pentagon officials said on Thursday.

Remnants of the terror group continue to operate in Iraq, but improved Iraqi security forces are able to manage that threat, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told reporters during the weekly Pentagon briefing. McKenzie is the director of the Joint Staff.

And, McKenzie denied Russian claims that the United States was responsible for drone attacks on Russian airfields in Syria. “I can tell you unequivocally that the United States was not involved in any way with the drone attack on the Russian base at any time,” he said.

ISIS ‘Broken, Fractured’

“[The physical caliphate] has been broken and fractured, but the work still continues,” White said. “We are going to continue our operations because we ultimately have to ensure we have conditions on the ground that ISIS can never re-emerge.”

McKenzie said trends against the remnants of the physical caliphate in the Middle Euphrates River valley are good. “We seem to be having success there with our allies and partners, but … I wouldn’t put a timeline on that,” he said. “There is also an enduring global element to it — the enfranchisement of ISIS. Even though they failed as a caliphate, there are global manifestations of their brand that we see pop-up. I think there is plenty for the global coalition to do in the year ahead, aside from the physical end of the caliphate in the Euphrates River valley.